CARSON CITY - Dennis Hof is transforming. He has a bordello empire with a license to operate sixth house in the works. He’ll have more women working for his houses than players in the NBA. He just opened the Alien Cathouse near Area 51. This new themed establishment makes it possible for nerds to truly hook up with a woman in a Princess Leia Slave Ensemble. He’s has a new knee and girlfriend (naturally a blonde) helping him rehab. He’s ready to party and his birthday’s the perfect excuse to celebrate.
How could the Party Favors refuse an invitation to spend a weekend celebration in the World Famous Bunny Ranch within craps throwing distance of Reno? The good part about a Dennis Hof party is that it’s not going to end up a sausage fest. There shall be ladies and interesting guests. This is what your friends in college imagined their parties were going to be like…except they weren’t like a Dennis Hof party. I couldn’t miss out on the fun since I needed to perform more research for my upcoming business book: House Rules: How to Make Your Employees Love Being Treated As Prostitutes. The self-help book is based on my experiences with Dennis over the years. Forget Donald Trump as business role model. Dennis has mastered the concept of making everybody happy at the end of a deal.
The party was set up to be a three day blow out. Madame Suzette had planned out a celebration worthy of her boss’s stature as the place to party. This wasn’t only going to be cake, ice cream, punch and a few party favors. There will be things that won’t be allowed on Instagram. Down in the Southern part of Nevada, they have an old tourism board saying, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” But what’s the deal with Carson City? How much can I tell about a “lost weekend” in a brothel? The Party Favors decided that if Dennis mentioned it as part of his Ustream show (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/dennis-hof), it’s fair game to relate. I’m not going to tease you that much - this isn’t about going to a stripclub. This was the greatest party since Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball.
Friday night was the social evening of drinks and karaoke to let the guests. `There was a great delight in just hanging out in the lobby and bar chatting away while Dennis welcomed his friends to his dream house. Dennis moved very well for a man who had knee replacement surgery six weeks before. But he also has the greatest rehab partners to keep him interested in therapy. His latest girlfriend is Courtney Cross, a tall Texas blond with a surprising talent. More on that later. What happened to his last girlfriend that was featured on HBO’s Cathouse? No need to ask. All you need to know is that Dennis Hof is the only man in America who doesn’t whine about getting back in the dating scene. He has better things to discuss in conversations. He mentioned how he explained to Elizabeth Taylor the difference between a vibrator and a dildo. My ears quickly perk up with such a tale. Dennis did once dine with the first lady of cinema. Ron Jeremy wanted to sleep with her so he could brag about the occasion. Naturally he wouldn’t point out what year it happened. A lot of the talk focused on Andy Kaufman. The late star of Taxi was Dennis’ traveling partner to Nevada cathouses in the late ’70s. How come that wasn’t in The Man In the Moon? I swore Tony Clifton’s ghost roamed around the hot tub in the back during the weekend. Or maybe it really was Tony Clifton.
The big talk of this visit to Ranch was “The Girlfriend Experience.” Not sure what influence the movie played in the craze, but seems like a lot men I met had their prime lady to see. There are a few women working exclusively as the girlfriend experience. They only visit the ranch when their date flies into town for a weekend long date. They don’t come running when the bell rings for the line-up. One guy explained to me that the girlfriend experience is cheaper by the hour than his last divorce lawyer. He kept in contact with his “girlfriend” over the internet between his flights to the Reno-Tahoe airport. The only bad difficult part of “the experience” is a chance of relationship drama. Some girlfriends don’t like seeing their “boyfriends” disappearing into other rooms. But when you’re a kid in a candy store, you can’t resist sampling from other colorful jars.
I quickly found myself enjoying the “Friend Who’s a Girl Experience” with the stunning Bailey Paige. The tall blond had remembered me from four years earlier when interviewed Dennis for the award winning “Hof/Corey Interview.” We quickly became drinking buddies for what turned out to be a longer night than I expected with a body still on east coast time. Casinos pump pure oxygen through the air vents to keep gamblers throwing around the chips. I have my suspicion that Dennis has figured out how to turn Red Bull into an aerosol spray to keep the party bouncing until the wee hours.
During the first night festivities, Dennis introduced me to Sunny Lane. How can talk about Sunny without sounding so sunny? How do you even talk to her? The AVN winning actress is a rarity amongst adult performers with her lack of surgical enhancements. She has a body made for HDTV. The Georgia Peach grew up with dreams of being an Olympic ice skater. However that dream feel through when issues with her feet that took her off the ice. Through a series of circumstances, she landed a job at the Bunny Ranch and appeared on the early episodes of Cathouse as Sunshine. This led to a career in adult cinema including the new Batgirl XXX. Here’s the almost workplace safe version of the trailer.
I became locked into awkward teenage mindset of muttering, “You’re so purty.” This however did not destroy the encounter. Sunny guided me on a tour of all the changes Dennis made since the last visit. There’s a brand new heated pool that’s perfect for late night skinny dips. The hottub has been upgraded. The bunnies are happy to have a larger work out center. There’s even a corral for Dennis’ horses. During the day, wild horses visit the compound. It’s truly the nature scene on the hill. It was a chilly night and Sunny was dressed in her skimpy work outfit. I loaned her my sweatshirt. We marveled at how bright the stars were in the Nevada sky. As I looked back down and saw her bundled inside my sweatshirt, I pondered if this moment was the “Gosh I Should Ask You Out to See If You’d Like to be My Girlfriend Experience.” She is such a sweetheart. She had taken a break from movies and working at the Bunny Ranch to enjoy life, but is now back and full of steam. Even with such an adorable cuteness, there’s a focused drive to her eyes. She is serious about her career in the flesh trade. She spoke of the issues in the adult video industry including the various sites offering free streams of her life’s work. This was what drove her to wake up in the wee small hours of the night to check the sharpness of her blades.
Sunny spoke about her time meeting Kim Kardashian. She’d figure they’d bond since they both are known for their asses and sex tapes. But Kim wanted nothing to do with Sunny. This is probably just pure envy on Kim’s part since Sunny knows how to work her ass and looks like she’s enjoys getting laid in her sex tapes. Sunny should have her own E! series since her mom and dad help with her career. Why can’t Ryan Secrest give us “Sunny Side Up!” or something of that ilkish titling?
During our tour, we stopped by the room of Carrasa Kisses. A lot people ask what kind of woman works at the Bunny Ranch. Mostly they expect tales of high school drop outs that went to work at Hooters, moved up to strip clubs and adult movies until they ended up in prostitution. Carrasa surprised me when she spoke of working in an operating room. I foolishly asked if she was a surgical nurse. She’s a surgeon. Why is she operating for Dennis? She went through med school and finished her residency. Her student debt was enormous. Instead of living on Top Ramen while paying off massive loans and huge malpractice insurance premiums, Carrasa called up Madame Suzette. She is a doctor who has bedroom eyes. During the three-way conversation, Sunny mentioned how much she likes Carrasa and it’d be really cool if we had a threesome.
Leonard Cohen should have written “The Sisters of Mercy” about these two ladies. There was such a warmth and spiritual healing feeling between them. As they both smiled at me, I could sense that this would be the kind of event that I’d brag about on my deathbed to loved ones before they smothered me with a pillow. It wasn’t just going to be a dirty evening, but a religious experience. A surgeon’s hands and a flexible figure skater made me think that this would be a party that had to last all weekend. Could I afford the Caligula dream that was kicking against my frontal lobes? Why didn’t I start a hedge fund? How much would they give me for my spare kidney? What if I threw in a spleen? Does my family need to eat for the rest of the year? Didn’t we eat enough food in the summer? Where are my magic beans? Will my wife bury me in a shallow grave or dump me in the lake “Dexter”-style? The sad truth is that the Party Favors expense account no longer covers Hookers and Blow like in the ’80s. My accountant warned me that even if I reviewed the party in the Party Favors, the IRS would cut me up if I claimed it as a business expense. For a brief moment, I prayed that Patti Kaplan would scratch on the door to let me know HBO was picking up the tab if I agree to let them film it. But there was no Make A Wish miracle. Nobody at Mastercard had to wonder if I put a down payment on buying Costa Rica. I was there to report and not play Neil Strauss. This is the most painful “fish that got away” story since I busted open my knee diving to catch an escaping bass. But at least I’m telling it to you and not a bankruptcy judge wondering how I spent two weeks in a bed. He’d probably want illustrations and I’d give them. Give me a minute to stop crying. What’s wrong with sending the kid to Community College and living in a tent? It builds character. Sunny guided me out of Carassa’s room. It was a walk of shame for me. But at least Sunny was wearing my sweatshirt.
Back at the bar the karaoke was in full swing. I found out more about the background of various Bunnies. One, whose name will remain secret, was on fall break from grad school. Her two weeks at the Ranch were going to cover spring semester. Tegan Tate was a trip since she reminded me of the Dark Side of Juno. The pixie-ish porn star had recently arrived at the Ranch after making a few films for the saintly folks at San Francisco’s Kink.com. What do you say to a woman that has “Punish me” tattooed under her breast? Sadie Lee talked to me about how she tried for a few weeks being a mail-order prostitute. She’d get appointments and fly around the country. She didn’t like the fact that she didn’t know who lurked behind the hotel room door and what he really wanted for his money. She liked the safety of Dennis’ bordello.
Hard to tell why HBO hasn’t done a new special about the Bunny Ranch. There’s so many stories eager to spill out from behind the gate. Patti Kaplan could make an entire special about Jayla Conrad, a third generation ranchhand. The redhead told me how when she was 16, she came across material from the Moonlite Ranch featuring not only her mom, but her grandmother. She waited until after Thanksgiving dinner to ask her mom and grandma. They didn’t deny it. We wondered if there’s ever a good time to let a daughter know that you and grandma worked at a cathouse? Maybe the topic could be mentioned after an episode of Cathouse? Turns out mom didn’t work there that long, but Jayda’s aunt did. Dennis said that Jayda’s aunt is responsible for getting him to buy the Moonlite Ranch and turning it into the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. Dennis also admitted to hooking up with Jayda’s grandmother. Andy Kaufman was part of this family-style fun. How can HBO not see a “Cathouse: Family Tradition” special in Jayda’s family story? They could run it next Thanksgiving. Get on it, Sheila Nivens!
Saturday night was the big party at Dennis’ nightclub. The theme was alien costumes so the room was covered in lots of intergalactic naughtiness. Slutty alien described the most of the wardrobe choices. The major shocker was that only one woman showed up in the Slave Leia outfit. For those wondering, I showed up in a white safe suit like the guys who investigate alien landings.
The big star of the night was none other than Ron Jeremy. Why hasn’t the Kennedy Center Honored Ron Jeremy? The man has made more movies then Jimmy Stewart. He’s even made movie that doesn’t feature him naked although those straight films have him being killed in various ways. It’s pop or be popped in the cinema of Ron. He’s not a tall guy. In fact it felt odd towering over the living legend. Ron spent most of the night posing for pictures, signing breasts and eating at the buffet. The man enjoys his meals. Who couldn’t resist the buffet since it featured Moon Pies! I was going to bring Dennis some of the tasty Southern treats, but feared the TSA would swipe them from my luggage.
Instead of just people merely hanging out, there was a floor show courtesy of some very talented Bunnies and gals from The Love Ranch. Acts included hoola hoops, Brooke Taylor wearing a blond wig, Psy dancing and the Samba. The strangest moment was when Courtney Cross stepped on stage to deliver topless opera. People were expecting something on par with Bugs Bunny’s “What’s Opera, Doc?” Instead Courtney delivered a moving aria with her serious operatic skills. She did lose her top to make sure the crowd paid proper attention. Another big pleasure was a photo booth set up. All night people struck triple posers that sometimes looked like a session for a Vivid Video cover. Here’s a behind the angle of Sunny Lane (the blond) and Jayla Conrad (blue hair).
Singing in the background is Sadie Lee. She was my karaoke buddy from the previous night. Dennis’ big birthday bash was all about bodies bumping into bodies without much complaining. There was body painting with no reservations as women completely stripped down to get the paint sprayed everywhere. Bailey only wanted a pair of wings painted on her back to give her more of angelic feel.
There were odd stars lurking at the party and strange dream-like resist the buffet since it featured Moon Piesuldn’igning breasts and eating at Leia outfit. te Bunny Ranch. Dennis also our Emmoments like when I’m standing with two people who have had their lives turned into supporting characters in Milos Foreman movies. They had been consumed into the faces of Paul Giamatti and Crispin Glover. I felt left out. Perhaps someday soon Milos will make a movie about Dennis Hof. Ryan Gosling will play me as the plucky internet columnist who brings his pregnant wife to the Bunny Ranch on their wedding anniversary. Although with my luck it’ll be Kevin James. For the love of God, don’t let Milos cast Tyler Perry as me. The after party back at the Bunny Ranch was even more exciting. You’d wonder when familiar faces disappeared if they’d gone to the bathroom or were enjoying an even more intimate after party. When you party in a bordello, anyone can get lucky at any time. This was better than being at the prom with a gallon of Jack Daniels and a canister of nitrus. The big fun came as I sat on the front porch with Mr. Dan Haggerty. He was the star of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams which was a childhood favorite. He has a sideline marrying couples at the Bunny Ranch. He’s tied the knot on over 200 parties with only one divorce. His big shocker of the night was telling us that he’d had a one night stand with Phyllis Diller. That’s right, Grizzly Adams hooked up with Fang’s Wife. You want details?
He was on a talkshow with Barbi Benton (Playboy After Dark and Phyllis Diller. Barbi had just broken up with Hugh Hefner. After the show, Haggerty joked that he’d love to hook up with Barbi, but he was heading home with Phyllis. The couple did head out. She mused, “Fang, if you could see me now.” The comic star did have a major request for their romp. “Now you do me a favor Danny,” she asked. “What’s that?” Dan responded. “Let me lay on the bottom so the wrinkles around my eyes disappear behind my ears.” She cared about Dan’s image as well. “Don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “I’ll go out the fire escape not to ruin your career.” “Are you kidding, this will be the best thing that ever happened to me,” Dan declared. The moment has not faded from Dan’s memory since each year an event brings it all back. “Every time I look at a Thanksgiving turkey on the table and those little white pompoms on the end of their legs, I remember her feet sticking in the air. Oh my God, is this going to be with me forever?” He laughed. He also told this story on the Dennis’ Bunnyranch U-stream so you can hear his proper infection (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/26134348).
The afterparty kept going with guests mingling with clients showing up to party with the on-duty Bunnies. The strange feeling is that at that moment guys in New York City and around Maine are living in panic that their names will be revealed by the Soccer Madame and Zumba Hooker. Yet there we were sitting on the front porch of a brightly lit brothel without a care about being frogwalked by the cops and branded by shameful New York Post headlines. Dennis Hof has created a sanctuary on the outskirts of Carson City where people buy a t-shirt to let the neighbors know where they’ve been. It’s a Carnal Disneyworld where after your ride, you exit through the giftshop. Unlike a strip club, there’s no harsh rules enforced on the wall. Nearly any pleasure can be negotiated. It’s like a world outside the norm that’s been inflicted upon us by puritanical media empires. Maybe it was the elevation, lack of sleep and a steady diet of Jack and Cokes, but things got really like a dream when I heard, “Hey Joe!” I turned around and it was Joey Buttafuoco. The man from the Amy Fisher controversy who has had at least four actors play him (including Kevin Spacey in American Beauty). Why does Joey Buttafuoco know my name? It took a second to remember our meeting at the start of the party. Why wouldn’t he remember my name since we’re both Joes. He was a nice enough guy. He was extremely happy to be there since he had a near death experience last year. Did he really survive? It was hard to tell since Dennis Hof’s birthday’s like an afterlife experience.
There was a Sunday pool party to wrap up the festivities. Since the Party Favors headquarters is on the East Coast, I could only attend the first scheduled hour. When I arrived back at the Bunny Ranch, the place was quiet as a church on Monday morning. Only thing you could hear was Ron Jeremy’s snore rattling around the hallways. Everyone was still recovering from the After Party. The pool was empty. The debauchery was taking a break. I wandered back to the lobby to sit on the sofa and wait for my limo ride back to normality. A tired bunny wandered into the room. We started talking a little bit and she fell asleep against me. I was part of “The Pillow Experience.” This led me to wonder if I’m supposed to be the one charging? Should I have called Madame Suzette to set the egg timer?
Can it really be another year before Dennis Hof has another birthday? That might be enough time to start my Odious Maximus Hedgefund.
Even with whirlwind of fun, the coolest thing was getting to spend a little time with Dan Haggerty. The bearded icon had no idea that Timeless Media was about to put out The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Season One on November 6. The DVD boxset has the first 13 episodes of the TV series about James “Grizzly” Adams. He’s a man falsely accused of murder so he takes to the frontier to maintain his freedom. He’s a nice guy and pals with Mad Jack (Dukes of Hazzard’s Denver Pyle). His big thing is his friendship with a Grizzly Bear named Ben. The boxset doesn’t include the original movie The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams that was released in 1974. The show came out in the spring of 1977 on NBC. But don’t feel left out since the intro contains clips from the film.
Turns out that Grizzly Adams was the original Back to the Future. The entire movie had been shot with a different actor as Grizzly. Sunn Classics didn’t feel good about the project and shelved it. Haggerty at the time was major animal trainer. He handled the wildlife on Ron Ely’s Tarzan series. He was working on another project for Sunn Classics when an executive saw him on screen and and declared Haggerty was their Grizzly Adams. He proposed a deal with Haggerty to reshoot part of the film for a miniscule budget so that they could save the project. Dan agreed and the film became a major hit. The movie grossed hundreds of millions all around the world. Dan received $5,000 and his bear pulled in $3,000. There would be no bonus check. But at least Dan and the bear got work when the network wanted to turn the movie into a weekly series. The series was family oriented with tales of the mountain man and his bear buddy. Even now this show is family entertainment with its mixture of western tales and cute animals as told by Denver Pyle. The first season had a few famous faces wander into the wilderness. Ken Berry, Charles Martin Smith, Slim Pickens and Norman Fell venture out to the mountains. Best is seeing Norman Fell acting against the bear as if it’s Mrs. Roper or John Ritter. Shame Fell didn’t get to work with more animals.
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Season One holds up even with its slower pacing. It’s fine family viewing when you want to calm down the room. Haggerty is extremely charming as the wilderness legend. The bear’s acting is amazing. The two are a memorable duo. For those wondering about the bear, Haggerty said that when Ben turned 30, he lost his teeth. In the animal world, this is soon followed by the bear dying. Haggerty had a dentist pal cap the bear’s teeth so that he lived 3 more years before succumbing to cancer. If you ever consider getting married at a bordello, make sure Dan Haggerty does the hitching.
E.T. GETS WAXED
If you ever wanted to do the bike pose with E.T., you’re in luck. Here’s a video clip from Madame Tussauds Hollywood wax museum about their new exhibit celebrating the 30th anniversary Blu-ray. I’m more impressed that they put back the shotguns after they had been CGIed into batons for the 20th anniversary DVD. The cool thing is you can climb on the bike and pedal pose with the alien. Remember to bring your best red hoodie.
Once again it looks like we’ll have a double winner for Worst Actor and Worst Actress at the Razzies except it’ll be two different films with the same bad performer. They just need to rename this year’s ceremony “Tyler Perry’s Razzie Awards.” He’s been lucky over the years not winning worst actress for his legendary Medea character. But this year is his as a her year. Why? Because he’s got the worst actor locked down for being Alex Cross in Alex Cross. How can voters not go for the ticket of double Tyler Perry with Alex Cross and Tyler Perry’s Medea’s Witness Protection? It’s got to hurt biological actresses knowing that they are still getting edged out of bad cinema by guys. Blame it on Shakespeare from when he wrote Tyler Perry’s Merry Wives of Windsor.
Streets of San Francisco Season 5, Volume 1 & Volume 2 wraps up a fine cop show that was shot on location and not a Hollywood backlot. This was the season of a major change. Michael Douglas had won the Best Picture Oscar for producing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He didn’t need to play sidekick to Karl Malden anymore. But he didn’t flee the scene like Laurence Fishburne on CSI. He stuck around for the opening season two-parter “The Thrill Killers.” This film introduced Inspector Dan Robbins played by Richard Hatch. The trio must crack a major case when a domestic terrorist group kidnaps the jury seated for the trial of their leader. They busted open the guest star budget with Norman Fell (The Ropers), James Hong, Ron Glass, Dick Van Patten, Patty Duke and Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No). The middle cliffhanger has Michael Douglas shot by Susan Dey (The Partridge Family). At the end of this special Douglas decides he needs to change careers. This leaves Malden and Hatch pulling the weight. “No Minor Vices” makes Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch) a teen hooker with a homicidal dad. “Hot Dog” has Don Johnson as a cop long before Nash Bridges. “Innocent No More” transforms Mark Hamill (Star Wars into a bad boy. The big thrill of the season is “Dead Lift.” Arnold Schwarzenegger is a muscle guy who suffers major cases of roid rage. He’s pumping iron and crushing bones. Even with a rather fine season, the audience dropped with the change from Douglas to Hatch. Things didn’t go too bad for Richard Hatch since he immediately snagged the role of Apollo on Battlestar Galactica. This has allowed him to be a busy guy on the Science Fiction Convention circuit. Karl maintained the persona of Lt. Stone when he reminded us to not leave home without American Express Travelers Checks. You can buy both volumes as a bundle for a discounted price.
Perry Mason, Season 7, Volume 2 packs up another 15 cases of legal thrills. Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) is back on his game after blowing that one case in Volume 1. What’s the secret of Perry’s business? People come in for a minor legal issue and leave needing the top dollar homicide defense. “The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands” seems minor when Joyce Bulifant (Match Game ‘75) hires Perry to hold onto race track bets. If the horse comes in Perry has to collect the winnings. The longshot comes true except Perry’s pick up gets complicated with someone claiming the betting money was stolen. The accuser turns up dead and now Joyce has to get Perry’s upgrade package. “The Case of the Bountiful Beauty” squeezes Ryan O’Neal between his girlfriend and stepmom. Turns out the girlfriend has written a bestseller about the stepmom. She’s not happy at being a semi-fictional character. She feels worse when she turns up a corpse. NCIS fans will get a thrill to see David McCallum in “The Case of the Fifty Millionth Frenchman.” There’s murder at a Shakespeare company in “The Case of Simple Simon.” Trouble must be there since Victor Buono (Batman’s King Tut) is in the middle of it. Speaking of Batman, “The Case of the Drifting Dropout” features Neil Hamilton. This is another fine legal outing that’s more exciting than Judge Judy. Fans will also be relieved knowing that the two volumes of Season 8 are scheduled to come out in November and January instead of a year from now.
All In the Family: The Complete Series contains the wisdom of Archie Bunker (Carrol O’Connor) over the course of 208 episodes that aired over 9 seasons. My dad worshipped Archie Bunker. We weren’t quite sure if he got the joke that Archie wasn’t right all the time. Archie was the blue collar soul of the not so quiet majority that put Nixon back in office. He lived in Queens, NY. His wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) was a ball of energy as she tried to keep stability in the house. What could rock Archie’s world? For starters there’s his daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her radical husband Meathead (Rob Reiner). Archie and Meathead constantly feuded about current events. Archie had a slight advantage since Meathead was living in his house. But that didn’t mean Archie won anything with his bigoted view of the changing world. The amazing thing is that the arguments between Archie and Meathead aren’t things of the past. They argue about race, religion, politicians and how America needs to go back to when things were just right. Archie could easily host a talkradio show after Rush Limbaugh and nobody would know he was talking to the callers from 1971. Rush Limbaugh’s entire schtick is stolen from Archie except there’s no Meathead to prove him wrong. And Archie reminded Meathead that his most idealistic beliefs weren’t going to work in the real world.
The series spawned several spin-offs including Maude, The Jeffersons and Good Times. It’s responsible for most of Antenna TV’s programming. Even when it went off the air, Archie Bunker couldn’t be stopped. Archie Bunker’s Place lasted 4 more seasons. The character wasn’t some made up creature. He was part of America. He’s the guy who calls up radio stations to set things right.
Here’s a bit from when Sammy Davis Jr. dropped by the house. This is one of my favorite Sammy acting gigs along with Ocean’s 11 and Cannonball Run. The stunned look on Sammy’s face after Archie lays down science is immortal.
The big thing for the All In the Family: The Complete Series is a bonus disc with several elements that fans have been clamoring to see. Even though this was a major hit from the start, Norman Lear had to make two pilots to finally get the green light from CBS. Both pilots are here. Both had different actors for Gloria and Meathead. It’s basically the same script as “Meet the Bunkers.” They toned down the hippie look of Meathead and Gloria. They also include the pilots for Gloria, Archie Bunker’s Place and 704 Hauser. The last was a ’90s attempt to flip the show with a black family now living in Archie’s domain. There are two documentaries featuring Norman Lear discussing the birth, life and impact of All In the Family. Maybe the biggest lesson of the show was that Archie Bunker is never going to go away. He’s still on TV as Bill O’Reilly. This boxset is sitcom nirvana.
Fantasy Island: The Complete Third Season brings us the time when Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize) got his mini-car. He was truly the mini-Mr. Rourke (Ricardo Montalban) in 1979. Why isn’t this show on at least Antenna TV on Saturday nights? Doesn’t matter now since Shout! Factory has given us more tropical goodness on DVD. Each Saturday two stars arrived via seaplane to have their deepest fantasy lived. While Mr. Rourke fulfills their desires, he gives them true insight into their own lives. “Hit Man / The Swimmer” has David Doyle (Bosley on Happy Days) wanting to be killed so his family can collect the insurance. Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch) gets dramatic as a paralyzed swimmer who had Olympic dreams. Peter Graves (Mission: Impossible) is the dad who wants to give her working legs. Gail Fisher (Mannix) might be the doctor of their dreams. “Goose for the Gander / The Stuntman” brings Abe Vigoda (Barney Miller) to the land of smiles. “Tattoo: the Love God / Magnolia Blossoms” lets the little guy get to be a customer. He wants to be a stud, but Mr. Rourke changes it up on his sidekick. “The Red Baron / Young at Heart” sticks Don Adams (Get Smart) in the cockpit as he battles the World War I legend of the air (Tarzan’s Ron Ely). Can you believe he misses him by this much? “The Wedding” is Mr. Roarke’s big day. But can he really trust his bride to be? “The Dancer / Nobody’s There” makes Max Baer as rich as Uncle Jed. “My Fair Pharaoh / The Power” transports Joan Collins (Dynasty) to ancient Egypt. I hope she doesn’t run into her teenage self. Fans of the Beach Party movies will be excited with two episodes. Frankie Avalon stars in “The Swinger / Terrors of the Mind.” Annette Funicello throws her voice in “Jungle Man / Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate.” Fantasy Island is classic ’70s kitsch with notable faces in freakish places. This is must see TV on a chilly Saturday night.
The Ernie Kovacs Collection: Volume 2 brings more goodness from the original innovator of TV comedy. Ernie Kovacs might have died in 1962, but he pushed the boundaries of TV into the 21st century. There’s more great weirdness in his vault that’s been brought to DVD. Volume 2 starts off with 8 episodes from his NBC Morning Show. This is the bar that Conan O’Brien and David Letterman wish to achieve on their shows. Ernie must have been a great shock for mothers looking to sit back after sending the husband to work and the kids to school. It seemed that Ernie’s prime crowd were kids skipping school. Bonus features include 18 sketches from the morning show including the immortal Percy Dovetonsils. Three episodes of his game show Take A Good Look are a blast. Ernie would have a mystery guest and a panel of three stars guessed the guest’s accomplishment. Besides asking questions, Ernie had made video clues as tips. But sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get a hint with the surreal snippets. If Salvador Dali had made a game show, Ernie would sue Dali because this is that show. This show is addictive if only for the way Ernie tortures his celebrity panel. If you order directly from Shoutfactory.com, they’ll throw in Ernie Kovacs: Take A Good Look. with seven more episodes of Ernie’s legendary game show. He created a show that rates up with Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life. “A Pony For Chris” is the pilot he made for a series that starred Buster Keaton. Here were two brilliant men that pushed film and TV for greater comic effect working together. “The Lively Arts” is a rare interview with Ernie. From the present day is the panel at the American Cinematheque that celebrated the release of Volume One. I’ll be interviewing Josh Mills about this collection in the next Party Favors. Order this set now from Shout! Factory so you can follow along with our conversation about Ernie and the effort to put him on a postage stamp.
Peter Gunn: The Complete Series gathers together all 114 episodes from the three seasons. The series introduced the cool detective to America in 1958. Peter Gunn was the first private eye with a major theme song. Henry Mancini’s jazzy beat made Peter a smooth and slick character that could dish out the pain while exposing the truth. Craig Stevens played the Peter Gunn with a crisp laid back style that makes him the patron saint of Don Draper on Mad Men. He wasn’t flashy or fast talking when he took a case. He used his connections just right to crack a secret. He was Mannix’s old man. His office was a jazz nightclub called Mother’s. He had a mobile phone in his Plymouth Fury convertible before Dan Tanna cruised the Vegas Strip. The black and white show had a classic noir feel yet didn’t dig deep into nostalgia. Gunn wasn’t trying to relieve the life of Sam Spade. He embraced the now of the late ’50s in his style and taste. He didn’t look like a cheap detective. He resembled his professional price. The show was only 30 minutes long so Peter doesn’t have too much time to run around on wild goose chases. He is serious in getting his client’s case finished. “The Kill” has a gang going against the owner of Mother’s. Peter doesn’t appreciate his office getting threatened. He goes after Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) to stop this nonsense. “The Man With the Scar” has Roy Thinnes (The Invaders) involved in a strangling. Billy Barty (Sigmund and the Sea Monsters) has a brief role. “The Fuse” has a mobster hire Gunn to find the real killer since he’s too much of a suspect. Ross Martin (The Wild Wild West) used this role to land Mr. Lucky, also created by Blake Edwards. James Hong (Kung Fu Panda) appears in “Lady Windbell’s Fan.” “A Kill and a Half” gives us Norman Fell (Ocean’s 11 and Billy Barty. In my area ME-TV doesn’t run Peter Gunn until the wee hours of the night. Peter Gunn: The Complete Series allows me to watch the noir action without falling asleep. As a bonus, they’ve included the soundtrack CD featuring Mancini’s other notes for the show. You can now watch and hear the coolness of the Gunn.
Warren Miller’s …Like There’s No Tomorrow is a stunning extreme skilling film that might cause you to break your leg is you duplicate the moves in your living room. The action is shot all over the world featuring Chris Davenport, Julia Mancuso, Daron Rahlves, Colby West and Seth Wescott on skis. They tackle slopes at New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, formerly the world’s nastiest weather spot. They hit the highs on both hemispheres with Himalayas action in Gulmarg, India and Portillo, Chile. There’s also creative stops in California, Alaska, Utah, Colorado, New Zealand and Norway. This is like a Jock Rock primer for packed powder season. This video should be blasting on the wide screen as you get the skis in slope ready condition even if you’re only going to tackle the bunny slope.
Nazi Collaborators is a 13 part series that explores what sort of people had no qualms making deals with Hitler. Why would “good” organizations find common ground with the German war machine? How could they turn a blind eye when their citizens are thrown on trains and sent off to death camps? Can organizations that you think are kind hearted today do something as foolish as those who saw Hitler as not that bad of a guy? Nazi Collaborators touches upon these issues that might have you staying up extra late in a paranoid stupor. We want to act like we’re beyond this mindset, but we live in a time when media figures defended a murdering and mutilating madman because his group worked “Christian” into their name. The 13 episodes include “Rumkowski and the Polish Jewish Ghetto,” “Laval and French Vichy Government,” “Arajs and the Latvian Holocaust,” “Degrelle and the Belgian SS,” “Sakic and the Croatian Concentration Camps,” “Quisling and the Puppet Norwegian Nazis,” “Sean Russell and the IRA,” “The Grand Mufti and Jerusalem Collaboration,” “German Mischlinge - Jews that supported Hitler,” “Rallis and the Greek Puppet Government,” “Mussert - “Shadow Fuehrer” of Holland,” “Nevanlinna - The Finnish Collaborator” and “The Schutzmannschaft Killing Squads.” The series originally ran on The Military Channel and is extremely important to watch if you lack the digital tier on the cable box.
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